Israelis look for silly distractions amid the coronavirus pandemic

Israelis are getting their pandemic diversion by tuning into the silliness of ‘The Masked Singer’

A GIANT FALAFEL has been one of the contestants on ‘The Masked Singer.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
A GIANT FALAFEL has been one of the contestants on ‘The Masked Singer.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Most of us are sick of masks after more than half a year of having to wear them due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Israelis are tuning in to a show that is focused on masks, The Masked Singer.
The Masked Singer is a musical talent show with a twist: the singers are celebrities who wear elaborate masks and costumes that conceal their identities. The panelists are given cryptic hints about who they are and then listen to the singers perform a song.
The game is to guess who they are. Each week, the panelists rate the performances and the performer with the lowest score has to reveal his or her identity. Israel’s celebrity culture has taken off in the last decade or so, and there are many famous faces to wear the masks.
The Israeli version of the show, which originated in South Korea and which has been adapted all over the world, premiered last month and the ratings are high and climbing. According to Keshet, the network on which the Israeli version of The Masked Singer appears, Monday’s episode was the most popular so far, with a rating of 29.7%, a high figure, and was seen by 841,000 viewers.
The panel features something – or rather, someone – for everyone, with veteran theater director Tzedi Tzarfati, television journalist Ofira Asayag, hip-hop due Static & Ben El Tavori, and stand-up Shahar Hason. Ido Rosenblum, who has hosted many shows, including Cash Cab, is the presenter.
But as well known as the performers and panelists are, it’s the masks that are the stars. In every version of the show around the world, the masks represent aspects of the local culture. So in Israel, it’s not surprising that a singing, dancing falafel, with a mustache of tehina was one of the masks. There has also been a cactus, a stork dressed in a turban and modest suit with a skirt meant to indicate that the performer is a religiously observant woman, and a Krembo, a popular Israeli dessert.
Israelis are talking about the show and tweets with guesses about the mask-wearers’ identities trend on Twitter as it airs.
Gal Uchovsky, movie producer, journalist and former judge on Kochav Nolad, the Israeli version of American Idol, has watched every episode of The Masked Singer, along with his WhatsApp group of friends who are similarly devoted fans. For him, it’s a great escape during this time of great challenges.
“It’s a very light-headed, fun show,” he said. “It’s very easy and enjoyable to watch. It’s a combination of a guessing game and karaoke.”
He gives high marks to the panel and says that “their reactions, their OMG faces and emotions make it more fun.”
The guessing-game aspect has been quite challenging, he said. “They present the hints in a complicated way, it’s very hard to guess. They give details that only their families would recognize.”
He has been impressed with the masked performers – “They’re A-listers,” he said – who have included actor/comic Tal Friedman, actor/pitchman Dvir Benedek and, more surprisingly, journalist Yinon Magal.
Uchovsky said he enjoyed the artistry of the masks. “There’s been a lot of effort put into them,” he said.
He feels that reality shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race have gotten mean-spirited and even violent lately, and “That isn’t what people want to see these days, they’ve become too harsh.”
The Masked Singer, on the other hand, is a “very friendly, naive, optimistic show” – and he’s still trying to figure out who’s inside the falafel mask.